Rangers Win a Big Game and an Even Bigger Catcher
Your Texas Rangers enter July with the best record in baseball. And a new starting catcher.
While rookie pitcher Omar Beltre surrendered a homer to the first Major League hitter he faced and lasted only four innings, Vladimir Guerrero turned a game, a series - and perhaps a season - with one vicious swing of his bat.
Down 3-0 to the Anaheim Angels on the heels of losing Tuesday night, Guerrero smacked a Scott Kazmir pitch over the center-field fence for a grand slam and a 4-3 lead. He added three more hits, including another homer, in Texas' 6-4 win.
That win capped June as arguably the best month in franchise history. The Rangers went 21-6, had baseball's best batting average (.313), its second-best ERA (3.38) and stretched their lead in the AL West to 4.5 games.
Just before turning the calendar, they also aqcuired a veteran everyday catcher in Bengie Molina.
The Rangers traded for the Giants catcher, sending reliever Chris Ray to San Francisco in a financially neutral deal that didn't add payroll. So it is, after all, possible to make deals while in bankruptcy court.
Molina is a 13-year veteran who spent most of his career with the Angels. While he's probably the fattest catcher you ever did see (listed at 5-11, 225) and his plodding on the basepaths is considered a liability, his handling of pitchers and defense are above-average. In San Francisco he hit .257 with three homers and 17 RBI.
His arrival should bring some long-term stability to a position thrown into chaos this season. The Rangers entered spring training counting on Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden, but the former forgot how to throw and the latter never learned how to hit. Enter veteran Matt Treanor, signed off the waiver wire as an afterthought and Max Ramirez, so limited defensively behind the plate that the team tried him as a first baseman in the minors.
With both of those guys hitting in the .220s, the Rangers seemed to be winning despite their catchers not because of them. Maybe with Molina that will change.
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